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Green veil partially covering open book showing Chapter 1 of Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree

Launch Date and Chapter 1 Revealed – Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree

Dear Reader,

Microphone and text: AnnouncingThe Launch Date is Confirmed

The official release of of Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, will be on  Sunday, 27th March. With just 3 days to go, here is the penultimate revelation: Chapter 1, laid bare below.

What Does Chapter 1 Mean?

There is something special about having written the first chapter of a novel. It isn’t usually the first part of a new book that I write, you see. The opening scene or paragraphs may come to me early on in the process, but the rest of the chapter could take its time. However, when it is in place, the collection of notes – scenes, dialogue, even a complete chapter here and there ­– suddenly, in my mind, becomes ‘The Book’. There is the feeling of acceleration and the certainty that it will, at some point, go forth into the world of dear readers, fully formed.

As so, it is about to happen. What can you expect on Sunday?

Book 7 in Paperback and ebook, 20% discount voucher for new book, free book 6 and launch videoSunday’s Line-up

The brand new Book 7 Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, the standalone sequel, will be available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback.

The Kindle edition will be available, for a limited time, at a 20% discount.

Book 6, Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, will be free to download for the day and Monday.

Oh, and of course, there will be a launch display video for your entertainment.

For You

Finally, I would like to thank you for your patience. Almost immediately after Book 6 was published, some of you loyal readers were asking for the next in the series. Now, I am delighted to say that the new book’s release into your hands is just hours away.

Until Sunday, I leave you with this. Just scroll down and you will be transported to the world of Sunken Madley with:

 

 

Scroll: Chapter 1, Amanda's Unusual Talent

 

It was difficult to make out what it was. The fog was being compounded by smoke from a nearby garden bonfire. Amanda ventured closer. Oh … just a sack of old leaves, wasn’t it? Probably from last autumn. Strange though. It wasn’t like Irene to be untidy.

Another few steps, No … She stood stock-still, the mist clinging to her skin. Amanda looked up at the branch above her … then down at the form beneath. The rope attached to it lay there like a pale dead snake. … Surely not … not this. … not here …

***

The day began promisingly. Amanda awoke naturally after a full night’s sleep to the song of the blackbird; there’d been some hazy dream or other. One of the downsides of being a back-sleeper was that she often surfaced to find a cat on her stomach. And not just any cat. Tempest, her familiar, was thick-furred in a collection of storm greys, citrine-eyed and constitutionally disgruntled.

Tempest, sensing his human was stirring, moved up to her chest and pushed his head out from under the quilt. Amanda smiled blearily, rubbing one blue eye, and stroked his head.

‘Good morning, Tempest.’

He stared at her meaningfully.

‘Yes, I know,’ she acknowledged tolerantly, ‘Breakfast. I must get up anyway. I have magic practice.’

Forty minutes later found Amanda, clad in green boiler suit and trainers, mouse-brown hair in a messy plait, kneeling on the floor of her furniture restoration workshop. But not yet engaged in restoration. She was instead screwing spare antique bow handles next to the four edges of an old flat-surfaced door. Observing Amanda, with a mixture of ennui and amusement, was Tempest.

‘There,’ she pronounced optimistically, ‘that should do it. First, a test run.’

Aerevel ynentel,’ she pronounced, and the door rose gently into the air until she halted its progress with ‘sessiblin’ and landed it with ‘sedaasig.’ This was Amanda’s particular gift, inherited through Perran, her grandfather, from the Cadabras. Since his elopement with Senara, née Cardiubarn, of the nefarious neighbouring witch-clan, he had been, ostensibly, estranged from his family. Yet, he had never regretted the union with his beloved Senara.

Of course, as far as the village was concerned, the couple were now, in what the ‘transitioned’ regarded as vulgar parlance: dead. They were, in fact, enjoying a somewhat different plane of existence, from which they made frequent visits either spontaneously or at Amanda’s request.

However, currently she and Tempest were the sole occupants of the workshop. It was here, where Perran had taught all, or at least, most of what he knew to Amanda, to whom he had bequeathed it together with the Vauxhall Astra. The vehicle was in British racing green, and along each side bore the legend in gold script: Cadabra Furniture Restoration and Repairs.

His granddaughter was presently regarding the door on the floor with satisfaction coupled with a degree of hesitation.

‘Good,’ she pronounced. ‘And now ….’

Amanda took a deep breath and stepped onto the door, sat down, and took hold of each of the two handles on the long sides. She focused and issued the command,

Aerevel ynentel.’ Amanda opened her eyes wide at the strange sensation of rising off the floor, inch by inch. Distracted, she lost her concentration, the surface tilted wildly, and she cried out instinctively,

‘Grandpa! Help me!’

Instantly a tall, silver-haired man appeared and, smiling, steadied her with a gesture and landed the door.

‘Oh, thank you,’ said Amanda with relief, putting a hand to her chest. Then, as a shocking thought occurred to her, she added, ‘Grandpa, did you put a spell on me?’ Casting magic on humans was absolutely vetoed. It had got her, and even the village of Sunken Madley, into far too much trouble in the past.

‘No, bian,’ Perran Cadabra assured Amanda, addressing her by his pet name for her, Cornish for ‘baby’, ‘just the board and the air around you.’ Calmed by his soft accent, hailing from the far south-west of the British Isles, and unfailingly kindly manner, she sighed,

‘Ah.’ Now, her tell was clear to see. In the presence of magic, the tiny brown islands in the sea of her blue eyes expanded into continents. Her close-work glasses helped to hide it, but anyone who knew what to look for could observe the singular effect.

‘All right?’ asked Grandpa. ‘Ready to try again? Just an inch or two off the ground this time.’

‘Yes … I don’t have all that long to practice, by the way.’

‘I know,’ replied Grandpa, nodding. ‘You’re meeting the inspector at a quarter past nine to give him the official Sunken Madley tour.’

‘That’s right. Ok, I’m ready. Back on the horse. Or, should I say … door?’

***

The somewhat wayward village of Sunken Madley, to which Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney of the Devon and Cornwall Police was now assigned, lay 13 miles to the north of the Houses of Parliament, and three miles south of the border of Hertfordshire. Its roots in the rural landscape, from which it had grown over a period of 800 years, were still in evidence to those who cared to look. It was embraced by ancient orchards and the sheltering Madley Wood. The village was a long way in every sense from the Cornish coastal town where Trelawney had been born and bred.

The inspector was a study in unobtrusiveness, in classic, well-cut grey suit and quiet, self-patterned matching tie. His short, light-brown hair was neither styled in a dated manner nor at the edge of current fashion. His features were pleasant, he was well-spoken, accentless, his manner mild and courteous. The sort of man, Amanda had often thought, one did not notice, until one really noticed.

Trelawney looked at his watch. He decided that he had sufficient time to make a diversion to The Corner Shop for a snack pack of almonds. There’d been a toaster crisis at his mother’s – which had been the school-holidays home of his youth after his parents’ divorce – and breakfast had turned into a rather vague affair.

His arrival at the nerve centre of the village coincided with the approach of Dennis Hanley-Page, a septuagenarian whose exuberant progress through life was entirely uninterrupted by the passing of the years.

Dennis was at that moment manifesting his eclectic musical taste. The final few bars of Rock the Casbah by The Clash echoed down the street, followed by the opening of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, as Dennis approached at 70 miles per hour. A red Triumph Spitfire, Dennis’s latest acquisition as proprietor of Vintage Vehicles, raced into view. The village had somehow managed to maintain a legacy speed limit from either the 1930’s or 70’s. Trelawney was simply grateful that he was not there to police the traffic, and entered The Corner Shop, while Dennis parked and secured his car.

Ding! The door heralded the inspector’s entrance.

‘Pen hates therapists,’ Joan the postlady was saying to Mrs Sharma, proprietor, and Sylvia, the hi-vis-vest-clad octogenarian lollipop lady. She was but recently arrived at the establishment from her labours of safely ushering the school children across the road. This duty she performed with the aid of her round stop sign on a long pole, hence her job title.

‘Hello, Inspector,’ they chorused in warm welcome. Joan brought him up to speed.

‘We’re talking about the new renter of the Sharma’s shop at the end of the High Street here. And I was about to say as no one could hate our new therapist. He’s a sweetie.’

‘Oh I know,’ enjoined Sylvia. ‘That would be like hating … Mother Theresa.’

‘Or Stephen Fry,’ returned Joan.

Ding! went the shop door.

‘Or Dolly Parton,’ chimed in Dennis, debonairly sweeping off his tweed cap. ‘Everyone likes Dolly Parton.’

‘We know you do,’ returned Sylvia with a grin, after they had greeted him.

‘Well,’ commented Joan, ‘my Jim says what with my hair and my curves, that I’m a tall, size 16 ringer for Dolly, bless ‘im.’

‘You’ve got a good man there, Joan,’ Sylvia remarked.

‘Oh, I have, I have. You know, when we was courting, and I mighta told you this story before …’

Trelawney was aware of the time and his appointment with his landlady-to-be and his new partner Miss Cadabra. However, he was even more conscious of his new status in the village, with its upgrade from ‘Honorary Village’ to ‘Village’. He had been warned that Sunken Madley was not like his Cornish home town of Parhayle, and they would have their own pace.

This was the last place he’d expected to end up and the last business he’d ever imagined he’d be embroiled in. Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney had regarded magic as a lot of mumbo jumbo and himself as a modern man, living in a modern world, solving modern, and also admittedly age-old, crimes, with the aid of modern techniques.

And then …

To be continued in Chapter 2

I hope that you enjoyed that. See you on Sunday.

Happy reading,

Holly


PS If you want to start the series now:
Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Village church and trees, text: Chapter 1, Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley by Holly Bell, read by Holly Bell:with youtube play button

Chapter 1 Video – Amanda Cadabra Book 4

Dear Readers,

As promised to you, here is the video with visuals as well as my reading of Chapter 1 of the new Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley. I hope that you enjoy it. Please let me know if you have any thoughts on it. The next is below if you’d like to read it as well.

Village church and trees, text: Chapter 1, Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley by Holly Bell, read by Holly Bell:

Chapter 1

Into the Globe

‘It will all be over very quickly. One way or another,’ said Aunt Amelia. She stared intently into the glass sphere on the round, lace-covered table.

‘Very quickly?’ asked Amanda Cadabra, pushing back her mouse-brown hair and glancing up from following the goldfish. Unlike her aunt, it was pretty much all the ball ever showed her.

‘An hour only, perhaps.’

‘And the villagers? Everyone will see it. If the magical world is supposed to be so secret and the entire Flamgoyne witch-clan descends upon Sunken Madley with fire, brimstone and hurricane, that is going to raise more than a few eyebrows on a whole lot of Normals, assuming that any survive.’

Amelia frowned into the globe ‘The village will empty.’

Amanda looked at her in wonderment. ‘How come?’

Her aunt shook her head, ‘That is not shown to me …. The glass is clouding … I’m sorry, Ammy, that’s all.’

‘I’ll have an hour to somehow repel them — without striking a single blow — but the village will empty?’

‘Yes.’

‘And I will have to defend it alone? — But no, you said I’d have help.’

‘That’s what it showed.’

‘So just me and my … helpers … whoever they will be.’ Amanda pondered, doubtfully.

‘Rrrrrr,’ interjected Tempest, in a marked manner.

‘Principal among whom will be Tempest, of course, ‘she added for the benefit of the thick, grey ball of grumpy cat, curled up in the most comfortable chair in the room.

Amanda’s familiar preened himself.

Not that I’m getting involved, he thought. This is a test for my human. But I’ll lend a paw if absolutely necessary. Dear me. The very idea is exhausting. How tiring this species is.

He shut his eyes and went to sleep.

 

***

 

Amanda Cadabra stared at the sky. The thunderous swirl of cloud was racing towards her village of Sunken Madley. She stood at its heart, before the green, opposite The Sinner’s Rue, on the old crossroads. She stood, feet planted apart, wand pointing at the ground, ready. Tempest sat by her side.

‘How?’ she wondered. ‘I’m just a furniture restorer. I have asthma and an annoying cat. I should be in my workshop, polishing Mrs Kemp’s aunt’s commode. How in the world did I come to this …?’

 

***

 

It was a recurring dream, but the situation was imminent, and the question was both real and pressing. The answer might have been said, and was by Granny, to be that Amanda had brought it on herself.

‘If only,’ Senara Cadabra had lamented, ‘you had not cast that spell. The very one your Aunt Amelia warned you not to perform, if you didn’t want to bring the Flamgoynes down upon the village.’

On the other hand, Grandpa, in his light Cornish accent, said that she had had no option.

‘When the crunch came, it was a choice between saving herself and the inspector, or sending up a beacon that Sunken Madley was the epicentre of powerful magical activity.’

Former Chief Inspector Hogarth of the Devon and Cornwall police saw it another way: an opportunity to solve a cold case that was over 30 years old.

Aunt Amelia, Amanda’s confidante and would-be divination tutor since she was nine years old, not only refrained from repeating I-told-you-so but was both sympathetic and constructive.

It was January, one of their regular Tuesday dinners together. Leaving the tea brewing in the kitchen, Amelia Reading, in deep red velvet splendour, sailed into her sitting room, her long dress wafting behind her, and seated herself.

‘Let’s see if the crystal will tell us more about the help that will come to you.’ Amanda, sitting opposite, could only see, reflected in the glass surface, Amelia’s bright brown eyes in a face framed by a chestnut bob. Apart from that, all she ever got was goldfish or a plastic Paris in a snowstorm. This had been the case for more than 20 years. Until now.

Suddenly, Amanda was electrified. ‘Wait!’ she cried excitedly.

‘What?’

‘Aunt Amelia. I see something!’

‘What, Ammy? What do you see?’

‘It’s … a big … banjo? …. No! Cello. It’s a big cello … it’s getting smaller … a violin? No. Oh.’ Her enthusiasm deadened. Amanda looked at Amelia questioningly. ‘A viola?’

Her aunt chuckled. ‘Ah, well that does happen in divination if you ask the same question twice or more. You get a joke or gibberish. At least this wasn’t the latter.’

‘The message is the same as the one I got from our conversation about having help to defend the village: find Viola. Except it’s not vee-oh- la, it’s Vie-oh-la.’

‘It shows you’re on the right track, and what a break-through for your divination, sweetie!’

Amanda was cheered.

‘You’re right, Aunt, on both counts. OK. So, what do we know about Viola? She was a friend of Granny’s. They met during the war. She was living here back then and told Granny, or “Juliet”, as you called her in your story, that she and Grandpa, “Romeo”, could have a peaceful life here. Yes? There wasn’t any more than that, was there?’

‘I’m afraid not.’

‘So, at least, the crystal ball confirms that this Viola is still alive. Unless … she’s not a ghost, is she?’

‘Was the cello — viola — clear or transparent?’

‘Perfectly clear,’ answered Amanda.

‘Alive then, I’d say.’

‘She must be old then …. I’ve thought of three people that she could be — Ah, the tea must be brewed by now. Shall I go and get it?’

‘Oh, use magic to bring it in. It’s perfectly all right here,’ Amelia assured her. ‘I’ve got this place as psychically secure as Fort Knox.’

Amanda pulled a certain Ikea pencil out of her orange woollen jacket pocket, flipped up the end and extracted a tiny slim wooden shaft topped with a citrine. She leaned across so that she could see into the kitchen, pointed the wand and said,

Aereval.’ The tea tray, bearing its load of Devon rose-patterned Wedgwood pot, cups, and bowls containing milk and sugar, two silver spoons and a plate of gingernut biscuits, rose from the worktop beside the kettle.

Cumdez,’ instructed Amanda. It glided through the air, along the passage to the sitting room and hovered.

Sedaasig.’ The tray lowered itself gently onto the table beside them. Amanda would not usually have bothered with a wand, but there was hot liquid involved, so extra control was needed. Hopeless though she was at divination, this was her special, and exceedingly rare, magical talent: a Cadabra family trait inherited from her grandfather. It enabled her, in spite of asthma that was all too easily agitated by physical exertion, to carry on the family business of furniture restoration, with all of its strenuous activity. Of course, any spell-working had to be conducted out of sight of Normals.

‘You were saying, dear,’ Amelia reminded her, adding sugar lumps to the teacups. ‘Three possibles.’

‘Yes,’ replied Amanda. ‘Mecsge,’ she added. The spoons began stirring. ‘There’s Mrs Uberhausfest, who distinctly told me that she and Granny had been friends for over 50 years — and you know how fond Granny is of her, invoking her whenever she talks of how, “we both did our bit in the War”.’ And with her line of work, if anyone could organise a Home Guard, she could!’

‘And the other two?’ enquired Amelia.

Sessiblin,’ said Amanda. The spoons stopped stirring. ‘The ladies who live at The Grange. Miss Armstrong-Witworth — the one who worked as a field agent for the government many years ago, I told you? But I gather she always operated alone, so not an organiser, I’d say — well, she and Granny never seemed very close at all, so, out of the two of them, I’d plump for Miss de Havillande. Both she and Granny are strong-minded, outspoken, definitely organisers, and with Views on every subject. In fact, I’d often thought they could have been two peas in a pod!’

Amelia laughed. ‘I know what you mean.’

‘Although,’ remarked Amanda suddenly, then stopped to think.

‘Yes?’ encouraged her aunt.

‘Well, what if … Viola isn’t a woman, at all?’

‘I think I see where you’re going with this, but carry on.’

‘Well. Viola isn’t from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is she? She’s from Twelfth Night. She’s the sister, cast up on an enemy shore, who, believing her brother to be drowned, takes on the disguise of man and gets a job working for the local count. So what if Viola is a sort of code name, but for a man?’

‘Or a woman pretending to be a man?’ Amelia hazarded.

‘Possibly, but I don’t think you could live in Sunken Madley and carry off a disguise like that for the better part of a century.’

‘True. What men would be eligible for the role of Viola, then?’

‘Well … old Mr Jackson, but he retired to Eastbourne to live with his son, so I don’t think it can be him.’

‘Someone at Pipkin Acres Residential Home?’ suggested Amelia.

‘Possibly …. But … well … what about Moffat?’

‘The Grange ladies’ butler?’

‘He’s far more than the butler,’ Amanda pointed out. ‘He’s pretty much run the house and estate for them all these years, and no one knows how old he is.’

‘That gives you four candidates then: Mrs Uberhausfest, Cynthia de Havillande, Gwendolen Armstrong-Witworth and, er — does anyone know his first name? — Moffat.’

‘Yes. And, I gather, Viola will be the means of assembling the rest of the people who will help on the day that the Flamgoynes attack.’

‘What’s your next move then, Ammy?’

‘Well … what I need is a reason to visit Irma Uberhausfest. And soon.’

Fortunately, thanks to stilettos, a spanner and a piano, one was in the making.

 

I hope that you enjoyed Chapter 1.

Looking forward to bringing you news of the paperback launch, and a suggestion for Hallowe’en.

Happy reading,

Holly

Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth

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